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Israel lawmakers approve bill limiting presidential pardons

[JURIST] Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislation [Haaretz backgrounder] approved a bill on Sunday that would allow Israel's courts to impose restrictions the president's ability to pardon murderers. The stated purpose of the bill [Haaretz report] is to prevent diplomatic overtures and "prisoner swapping," which is the exchange of hostages or prisoners by opposing sides of a conflict. The bill, which was approved 7-3, must now be approved by Knesset [official website] in order to become law. The bill will not be retroactively effective [Haaretz report] on current prisoners.

Opponents of the bill say that it limits the government's ability to deal diplomatically with Palestine, which is especially concerning given recent conflicts between Israel and Palestine. Palestine had previously struck an agreement with Israel for each country to exchange 100 prisoners [JURIST report], but allegedly Israel has not upheld its side of the deal. Furthermore, Israel's settlement program has come under fire internationally in recent months, adding to the conflict between the states. The UN called on Israel in April to cease its settlement program [JURIST report], citing human rights concerns. A UN rights specialist has called on the International Court of Justice to assess the legal status of Israel's occupation of Palestine, claiming that Israel is engaging in colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Such allegations are complicated by the UN General Assembly's recent grant of non-member observer status to Palestine, which has caused Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to reconsider whether it would go forward with a preliminary examination of international crimes in Palestine [JURIST op-ed].

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